The Iowa caucuses are scheduled for 15 January 2024, making it the first and one of the most important races in the contest for the Republican presidential nomination. It also makes the Iowa state fair a ritual stomping ground for campaigners each election season – presenting irresistible opportunities for hopefuls to canvas their case for the presidency with the fair’s roughly one million attendees.  

Over the weekend, almost every Republican vying for the 2024 presidential nomination descended on Iowa for the state fair. The occasion brought an array of classic sights and scenes, including Donald Trump’s distribution of Make America Great Again merchandise; the brandishing of pork chops and corndogs for photo ops; protesters and stump speeches; as well as a more unexpected inclusion this year of Vivek Ramaswamy’s rendition of Eminem’s rap song ‘Lose Yourself’ (Ramaswamy is currently polling fourth in the state).   

Source: USSC

Donald Trump holds 44 per cent of Iowa’s likely Republican caucus vote according to a recent New York Times/Siena poll surveying 432 of the state’s caucus voters. While this is less than the former president’s 54 per cent capture of the national Republican vote, it is still a substantial 24 percentage point lead ahead of the next closest choice, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.  

From Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Barack Obama in 2008 to George H.W. Bush in 1980, the ability to exceed expectations or even outright win the Iowa caucuses has at times played a sizeable role in presidential primary elections, giving front-running candidates needed momentum to secure top spots in other states. For DeSantis, whose campaign has reportedly struggled with campaign financing and cutting through to undecided voters, performing well in Iowa is essential to maintaining his substantive double-digit lead over the other candidates and closing ground on Trump. As a result, the 2024 hopeful is working hard to visit each of the state’s 99 counties before Iowa Republicans head to polls. 

This commentary was originally featured in the weekly edition of the 46th newsletter